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TAMPA — Every time Boca Ciega made a run Thursday night, Jesuit had an answer:
When things got close, he muscled his way inside for a basket. He made free throws to convert two three-point plays. He made a no-look pass to a teammate for an easy bucket.
And when the Pirates made one final run, pulling within six late in the third quarter, he grabbed a miss by a teammate and put it right back in, maybe the most decisive blow in Jesuit’s 63-50 victory in a Class 5A quarterfinal.
“We saw the way he was playing and we’re, well, we just have to keep giving it to him,” said point guard Devin Harris.
Johnson (26 points), Harris (21) and Jack Fleming (15) combined for 62 of Jesuit’s points to pace the No. 1-ranked Tigers, now 27-1.
They travel to Gibbs for next week’s region semifinals.
The Tigers led 32-17 early in the third quarter before Boca Ciega’s Dallas Moore started hitting shots from the parking lot, and his runner pulled the Pirates within 39-33. Boca Ciega (17-9) had the ball with a chance to get closer before turning it over to Fleming, who missed a shot that Johnson grabbed (one of his eight rebounds) and powered back up for two points before the third-quarter buzzer.
“We knew we had the edge inside,” said Johnson, alluding to the absence of Pirates big man Michael Clark, out with an ankle injury. “They had some big bodies, but they couldn’t move. So we decided to get it inside, get everyone in foul trouble and get to the bonus.”
Tremond Webb, Clark’s replacement, fouled out. Jesuit shot 27 free throws.
While the combination of Johnson’s bullying inside and Harris’ slashing to the hoop was too much for the Pirates; on the other end the Tigers’ defense was superb as well.
Moore made five 3-pointers, but had to take them from 25 feet so as not to have a hand in his face.
“That man was shooting way out there,” said Harris.
Not that he had a choice.
“Jesuit plays a long 2-3, 3-2; they extend so far out it’s hard to get a shot,” said Moore, who finished with 23.
8A: Wharton rewriting history
TAMPA — Mired in Thursday evening’s rain and rush-hour snarl on Bruce B. Downs Boulevard, North Port’s charter bus pulled into Wharton High at roughly 6:30 for a 7 o’clock region quarterfinal.
By contrast, Wildcats point guard C.J. McGill had no such issue with traffic. For the better part of 32 minutes, the 5-foot-9 senior weaved, diced and dashed his way through it.
Penetrating often at will, McGill tallied 24 points and six assists to lift the Wildcats (22-4) to a 76-39 rout of the Bobcats (14-14) in the 8A quarterfinal.
“He’s been doing that all year,” ’Cats coach Tommy Tonelli said.
The victory, played the final 3:18 with a running clock, arrived almost a year to the day after the short-handed ’Cats were stunned by East Lake, 64-63 in the 2012 quarterfinals.
On Thursday, Tonelli’s players — still cognizant of that defeat — found closure before many fashionably late arrivals found their seats.
“I just told the guys there’s one way to get people to quit talking about last year, and that’s to win this game,” Tonelli said. “And then last year’s over, last year’s behind us, last year’s forgotten.”
McGill had two of his four 3-pointers during a 14-0 run midway through the first half, giving the hosts a 34-16 lead. His traditional three-point play, on a transition layup after a turnover, gave Wharton a 45-22 lead early in the third.
Senior backcourt mate Virgil Crump (10 points) had two of the ’Cats’ other three treys, including one at the first-quarter horn. Senior Sir Patrick Reynolds (13), classmate Jaken Grier (10) and junior Chase Litton (12) rounded out Wharton’s balanced attack. Litton had 10 after halftime.
“We can be tough,” said McGill, whose team travels to Sarasota Riverview for Tuesday’s region semifinal.
“We have a lot of shooters on the team and we’re a big threat behind the perimeter. We can be really tough to beat, so I just hope we can keep playing the way we’ve been playing.”
7A: Long distance kind to Indians
GIBSONTON — It was a show from beyond the 3-point arc all night for Mike Washington as East Bay toppled Haines City 61-57 in Class 7A region quarterfinal action Thursday.
Washington completed five 3-point shots en route to a 15-point night to give the Indians (21-5) confidence boosts when they needed them most in a tight game that came down to defense.
“We made big plays when it counted, and it really went our way for us,” said East Bay coach Billy Teeden, whose team faces 25-3 Bartow next. “We’ve been shooting the ball well, and we have to keep it going.”
Haines City (15-14) kept it close most of the way, but could only watch as the Indians came out shooting to start the second half.
Marcus Wright kicked in two of his 19 overall points to start the third, then opened up Washington who hit two straight 3-pointers and just missed a third to open an 11-point lead.
The Hornets, however, just wouldn’t give up. Led by Jack Tisdale and D.J. Law, Haines City answered East Bay shot for shot and ended the third quarter down just 42-39.
Fouls kept the Hornets close, especially for Osney Vital who had eight free-throw attempts in the second half alone. But as a team, Haines City was only able to hit 15 of 21 free throws, especially toward the end of the game when Tisdale missed a pair with his team down by two and a little more than 50 seconds left.
Vital ended the night with 16 points and three rebounds while Law knocked in 16 points of his own. Tisdale had 13 points for the Hornets.
“It’s exciting that we have opportunities to do something really special,” Teeden said. “We just have to keep playing within the moment.”
7A: Chiefs exact a little revenge
TAMPA — Same teams. Same game. Different result.
A year after Seminole closed the Class 7A region quarterfinal with a 28-8 run to stun Chamberlain, the Chiefs turn the tables Thursday night with a 38-37 victory.
It took all 32 minutes as Matt Cassity’s 3-point shot from the top of the key on the game’s final play bounced off the back of the rim.
Chamberlain (21-5) plays St. Petersburg on Tuesday.
Reggie Hart (16 points) reached the 2,000-point milestone for his career with a spinning 5-footer with three minutes remaining, giving the Chiefs a 36-31 lead.
But the Warhawks (18-6) scored the next six points, the final three on a trey by Marco Behori (15 points) with 1:20 left, to take their final lead at 37-36. But Seminole hurt itself with several turnovers, and Chamberlain scored the winner with 28.1 seconds left on a Reshawn Fredericks layup after a pass from Hart.
Chamberlain coach Christopher Snyder said his team watched a replay of the second half of last year’s 57-52 loss to Seminole at the Chiefs’ first practice this season.
“I wanted to move forward and didn’t want to concentrate on what happened in the past,” Snyder said. “That was our driving force all season — to make sure that we seize the moment now.”
Cassity led Seminole with 18 points.
“(Cassity) got a great look at the rim, he just couldn’t knock it down,” Seminole coach Joshua Walker said. “A couple of turnovers with two minutes to go probably cost us the ball game.”
6A: Sickles keeps calm, heats up
TAMPA — It seemed as if Palmetto had never really gone away, never even gone cold, picking up right where it left off after last year’s playoff upset at Sickles.
Jarrid Rhodes promptly came out and drained a 3-pointer. Stevon Saunders nailed two straight from behind the arc. Tre Williams banked in another with little more than a minute remaining in the first quarter.
Sickles remained unfazed during the barrage; Palmetto couldn’t possibly maintain its torrid pace.
“We just had to weather the storm,” Sickles coach Renaldo Garcia said.
The Gryphons’ defensive pressure eventually ended Palmetto’s hot-shooting streak, and Daniel Harris and Raymond Santiago each scored 17 to lead Sickles to a 59-38 victory in its Class 6A region quarterfinal.
The Gryphons (25-4) will travel to Largo for the region semifinal.
Nearly a year after its stunning postseason loss to Palmetto, Sickles turned things around with a dominating effort that didn’t truly get started until the Tigers finally started to cool off.
Trailing 16-13 after the first period, the Gryphons switched to a trapping halfcourt defense that overwhelmed their shorter and less sure-handed opponent. Palmetto had nearly twice as many turnovers (seven) as points (four) in the second quarter.
The strategic switch helped Sickles go on a 13-1 run midway, punctuated with a couple steals by Jaaron Barrett and a three-point play by Malcolm Johnson that gave the Gryphons a 21-19 they would never relinquish.
“They were long and athletic,” Palmetto coach Reggie Bellamy said. “Our guards couldn’t see over them.”
Palmetto forward Jarrid Rhodes, the Florida Athletic Coaches Association’s 6A player of the year in the Manatee-Sarasota district, scored all of his eight points in the first half.
6A: Armwood goes cold in overtime
LARGO — Donavan Hale has steely nerves and unflappable confidence.
So it was understandable that coach Phil Price turned to Hale in the most crucial moments of Thursday’s Class 6A region quarterfinal against Armwood.
Hale finished with 22 points, 13 in the fourth quarter and overtime, as he lifted the Packers to a 64-58 victory.
Through three quarters, the Packers (18-8) had control of the game, leading by as many as 10. But the Hawks started using their perimeter game to rally. Armwood made five 3-pointers in the fourth quarter, including two by Jarred Anderson.
That helped the Hawks outscore Largo 16-9 in the fourth quarter and tie the score at 58 at the end of regulation.
Armwood couldn’t get any shot to fall in overtime. Largo made one more field goal, grabbed nearly every important rebound and whittled down the clock to win.
Vontrey Hill had 17 points and Marcus Hill added 13 to lead the Hawks.
5A: Lennard wilts late
ST. PETERSBURG — Gibbs opened up a close game with a big fourth quarter and pulled away to defeat Lennard 64-52 in the 5A region quarterfinals.
For the first three quarters, the Gladiators and Longhorns played close. Gibbs led 19-11 in the second, but Lennard closed out the half on a 11-2 run to lead by one.
The Gibbs offense opened up for 17 points in the third quarter, including a 3-pointer at the buzzer by Daniel Davis that gave the Gladiators a four-point advantage.
The Gladiators led by 11 in the fourth quarter after a 10-3 run that forced the Longhorns to take outside shots and foul. Gibbs was strong from the line, with Barry Brown making the team’s last seven points from the stripe.
“We took too many jump shots in the first half,” Gibbs coach Larry Murphy said. “In the second half I told our guys to attack the basket.”
The strategy worked, as Gibbs doubled its first-half output and scored more points in the fourth quarter than it did in the first two. Brown led Gibbs with 17 points, while Darrel Fuller and Shaquille Speights each contributed 13. Davis was the other player to reach double figures, scoring 10. Gibbs also had a big advantage in free throws, making 20-of-25 attempts, while Lennard sank three baskets on just seven attempts.
Gibbs next faces Jesuit, which clipped the Gladiators by a point in the preseason.
4A: Berkeley's strong start sets tone
TAMPA — Berkeley Prep overwhelmed DeSoto in the opening minutes of Thursday’s 4A region quarterfinal and again to start the second half. Craig Bowman went off for a game-high 31 points in the Bucs’ 73-43 rout.
After Justin Gray devoured the opening tip, Bowman swished the first shot, DeSoto turned the ball over, Gray blocked a shot and the Bucs ran out to an early lead. DeSoto’s fullcourt press was ineffective early and led to some easy baskets as Bowman started to warm up, hitting two 3-pointers and hustling after loose balls and rebounds. He finished with three steals and four 3-pointers.
The Bucs let off the gas a little in the second quarter and DeSoto cut the lead to nine. Bucs coach Bobby Reinhart called a timeout and laid into his team.
“We have to improve on those 50/50 balls and we were playing lethargic,” he said. “We weren’t guarding the ball-handler; it was not good.”
The message got through. The Bucs’ halfcourt traps started to create steals and Bowman and Eric Reintgen hit 3-pointers to end the half up 49-34. The Bucs picked up where they left off in the third quarter. They went on a 5-0 run punctuated by N’Namdi Green driving to the basket. He finished with 13 points, four rebounds, four steals and a blocked shot as the Bucs cruised through the second half, up by more than 30 and with a running clock.
3A: Business as usual for Terrapins
TAMPA — Tampa Prep can look to two big reasons for its success.
One is balance. With their shooters and big men inside, the Terrapins have the ability to go inside-out with the best of them.
The other is depth. The Terrapins lost a two-year starter this past week due to a foot injury, yet still have a stable of capable guards to plug in.
Both attributes were on display Thursday night as the Terrapins cruised by Lakeland Christian 64-48 in a Class 3A region quarterfinal.
In the first half, it was the Terps’ perimeter game that got them going. They connected on six 3-pointers, four by senior swingman Andy Fullerton.
Tampa Prep came out in the second half determined to take advantage of its size inside. Juwan Durham and Adonis Rwabigwi combined for 30 points with many of those coming on passes from Josh Heath. Heath finished with nine assists.
The Terrapins next host Lakeland McKeel. Coach Joe Fenlon expects a tough game against the Wildcats, led by standout sophomore Dwayne Bacon.
“We’re probably going to be facing the top sophomore in the entire state,” he said. “They will get up and down with us, so it’s important that we establish our bigs inside.”
2A: TBC gets strong outing from Manzi
TAMPA — Tampa Bay Christian proved too strong for All Saints’ Academy, cruising 72-42 in the 2A region quarterfinal.
Despite starting on a 13-2 run, coach Don Grantham felt his team got off to a bit of a sluggish start as they failed to score in the final two minutes of the period. Throughout the game, however, the Rams were able to use their size advantage to establish an interior presence as 6-foot-10 junior center Dan Manzi scored 22.
“We wanted to take advantage of our bigs, but credit to them they didn’t make it easy,” Grantham said. “We had some good runs over the course of the game, but I thought they were very disciplined. They eventually denied Manzi the ball, which forced us to get help from elsewhere.”
The help came from sophomore Bryant Searcy, who finished with 26 points. After going into halftime up by 16, the Rams had to withstand a Saints push in the third quarter, a stretch in which Searcy threw the team on his back scoring 11 to maintain the lead.
“He can hurt you in a lot of ways,” Grantham said. “I don’t think we’ve seen how good this kid can be yet. He has the athleticism to be special and a heart for the game, but as he develops his leadership skills he’ll be a very special player.”
Class 8A, Sarasota Riverview 55, Alonso 51: At Sarasota, the Rams finally found a way to neutralize Ravens all-conference senior Greg Robinson (26 points) down the stretch to eke out a nip-and-tuck quarterfinals win. “(Robinson) carried us,” Ravens coach Todd Price said.
Class 7A, Bartow 58, Brandon 23: At Bartow, the Eagles trailed by 20 at halftime and managed only 10 second-half points against the Yellow Jackets (25-3), who are seeking their third final four berth in five seasons.
Class 4A, Tampa Catholic 75, Avon Park 38: At Avon Park, Crusaders juniors Isiah Thomas and Chivarsky Corbett teamed for 39 points to help the Crusaders (19-8) force a fourth meeting against Berkeley Prep, this time in the region semifinals. Berkeley has won two of the matchups, by three total points.
Class 3A, Lakeland McKeel 74, Seffner Christian 66: At Lakeland, the host Wildcats (17-7) rallied from a five-point halftime deficit with 24 third-quarter points en route to the triumph. Six-foot-7 Crusaders senior Barrett Swartz scored 35, including four 3-pointers, in his high school finale for SCA (14-15). Classmate Jordan Parker scored 20, while sophomore guard Kent Hegarty added nine.
Staff writers Joey Knight, Joel Anderson and Bob Putnam, and correspondents Don Jensen, Michael Hinman, Mike McCollum, Andy Warrener, David Rice and Anthony Salveggi contributed to this report.